Sunday, September 30, 2018

Karate Combat: Something Old with Something Cool

Karate Combat launched at the beginning of the year and usually when folks hear karate now, they kind of brush it off as old and outdated. However, when MMA legends like Bas Rutten and Chuck Liddell attach their names to the brand, folks get interested. As an 11 year student of Isshin-Ryu karate myself, I was already interested to see what they brought to the table in terms of bringing a fresh look to full-contact karate.

Since February of 2018 they have held events in Budapest, Miami, Greece, and on top of One World Trade in New York City. I watched their pre-season event with some skepticism as it was a unique rule-set that works really well for pacing and action. For some reason, I thought the rules they used would be perfect to make a fair fight between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. since deep down we all knew the boxer would win the boxing match. That along with my love for old-school karate got me really interested in what Karate Combat would offer in future events.

Still, around the time they aired the pre-season event in Greece McGregor/Mayweather talks were buzzing so I wrote about the idea of them using the rules Karate Combat set up on Sherdog. That lead to an interview with Phoenix Carnevale, one of the commentators who took some time to go deeper into the rules and the other things Karate Combat is doing in presenting full contact karate in the digital age.

Before she even got into the unique and exotic locations, I was already drawn in when watching fighters fighting in a pit. The on-screen HUD made me think of video games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Carnevale being a martial artist and a fan of pop-culture and video games and comics she is thrilled to be involved with the presentation and working with a legend like Rutten during the events. Everything that seems odd or risky about Karate Combat is exactly what makes it cool.

I had to go to one of these events if I ever got the chance, and I did.

I went to cover Karate Combat: One World in New York City and being escorted to the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center had the feeling of being brought into something like the underground fights that were held in secrecy like Jim Genia wrote about in his book, Raw Combat: The Underground World of Mixed Martial Arts, but for rich people. Rich people like the ones in movies like; Lionheart (1993) starring Jean-Claude Van Damme or the people that went to watch the type of fights in Best of the Best 2 (1993). The people weren’t awful like the ones in those films but that nostalgic feeling like you were doing something cool and exclusive was there.

Karate Combat was doing something cool and exclusive and it I’m not referring to the fights.  Yes, they were great with their “best of the best” competing and three of the fights ending in knockouts or technical knockouts. The previous events were featured some pretty devastating ones that when the lights are off and the event is over, makes you wonder if they are okay afterward. Karate Combat’s innovation is not all in their presentation, the science behind what the fighter’s bodies are doing is there too and in New York, the focus was on the brain.

I was fortunate to be standing next to one of the representatives of Quadrant Biosciences , who told me they were working on mouth guards that would register the type of damage blows to the head could cause, or at least be able to gather data to help in diagnosing concussions. I wrote about it on Sherdog as well as I thought this is something that other promotions should be looking into using in other combat sports.

I’m not sure how being an invite-only event makes the promotion any money to help pay for the fighters, production staff, and production itself but if you ever get the chance to attend a Karate Combat event, be prepared to stand for a while and be impressed. Their next event is in Japan, the birthplace of Karate and where it will be will likely be announced just before it happens. It may be an odd approach, but it seems to be working.

Photo: Ed Carbajal

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